Editorial: The Yeddy Diary Scam is Beyond Individuals. It Is About How BJP Raises Funds
EC must step in to investigate the BJP’s fund-collection routes and disqualify it from contesting Elections.
Stunning revelations that the Modi government has been in possession of a diary of senior BJP leader and ex-Chief Minister of Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa listing illegal payments of almost Rs 1,800 crores among others to senior figures at the BJP Central Committee in 2009, has shaken the BJP enough for the concerned ministers to go absolutely mum.
This shocking event, complete with handwritten accounts and details, has dealt a body-blow to the campaign of Narendra Modi, the “Chowkidar” prefix forced onto his entire Cabinet — already seen as ridiculous and also under great strain from the ‘Chowkidar Chor hai’ refrain that can be heard spontaneously in Opposition rallies.
As confirmed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in a press release, xeroxes of the sheets in the diary were picked up in a raid at Congress leader DK Shivakumar’s residence. The Caravan reported that: “The copies of these entries have been with the income-tax department since 2017. The copies of the diary pages note that Yeddyurappa paid the BJP Central Committee Rs 1,000 crore; that he paid the finance minister Arun Jaitley and the transport minister Nitin Gadkari Rs 150 crore each; that he gave the home minister Rajnath Singh Rs 100 crore; and that he paid the BJP stalwart LK Advani and the senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi Rs 50 crore each. Besides this, the entry notes, Yeddyurappa paid Rs 10 crore for ‘Gadkari’s son’s marriage’.”
But this case is very different from one of individual bribery or improper payments to political leaders. That this is about how a political party was enriched and went about raising funds, and that is what must be the centre of our concern.
That the payment was made to BJP makes it liable for disqualification from contesting elections, and the party should be investigated and acted against by the Election Commission on utmost priority.
The CBDT said that during a raid at Shivakumar’s home and other properties, they found some “loose papers”, which were photocopies of Karnataka Legislative Assembly Legislator’s Diary pages of 2009. The papers had details of numerical entries against some individual names, the CBDT said, adding that the original copies of those documents were never given. When Shivakumar was questioned about it, he had said that the papers were a copy of a diary written by Yeddyurappa and the payments made on his behalf to legislators, according to the tax department. Moreover, the Tax department admits that writing samples were sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad in April 2018. “It is clear that for a forensic analysis of the disputed writings to establish its evidentiary value, originals of the same are required,” the tax department said.
“All efforts have been made by the Income Tax Office concerned to procure the originals of the disputed writings. However, the details about the place and custody of the original writings and, if the original writings exist, are not available.” So the CBDT has said that it has tried to verify the documents, but has clearly not tried hard enough.
The most intriguing is the journey of one Officer in the Income Tax department, Sushil Chandra, who was responsible for this investigation. He is said to have got three extensions till May 2019, when he was set to retire, only to be appointed as one of the Election Commissioners in February 2019, only the second tax officers in independent India’s history to be elevated to the Election Commission.
Nevertheless, the Election Commission must now establish its autonomy and seize the moment to rescue the downslide in our democratic practices by too much money coming in. This has shown the light on one of the ways the wealthiest and most powerful political party in India has purportedly received funds. The implications of this route of fund-collection, on our parliamentary democracy are immense.
The fact that the Modi government sat on the information despite having this since 2017 tars any attempt to showcase this government’s commitment to “battle corruption”. It makes it clear that the scuttling of the probe into the Sahara-Birla diaries in 2015/16 was just the tip of the iceberg in the BJP’s plans to cover-up for any revelations on how it has filled its coffers, with impunity. The Sahara-Birla diaries consisted of excel spreadsheets indicating payments to the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, complete with amounts.